AirDrop is an Apple feature that lets you quickly and wirelessly transfer photos, links, and more between iPhones, iPads, and Macs. Google has a competing product on Android called “Nearby Share.” Here’s how Nearby Share works and how it compares to AirDrop.
What Is Android Nearby Share?
The Google Play Store offers hundreds of apps that allow you to easily send links, files, photos, and other things between devices. However, there has never been a native built-in method for all Android devices. The closest thing was “Android Beam,” but that required physically touching devices, and Google has since abandoned it.
Nearby Share uses Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or NFC to send content. It automatically determines which method is the best for the situation when a transfer is initiated. Large files will likely take advantage of a Wi-Fi direct connection, while smaller items can be sent over Bluetooth or NFC. You also have the option to enable mobile data or disable all internet transfers entirely.
How is Nearby Share suddenly available on most Android devices? The common thought would be an Android operating system firmware update, but it’s actually simpler than that. Nearby Share is part of Google Play Services, a required component of Android devices that ships with the Google Play Store. Play Services is updated through the Play Store, making it much easier for Google to add Nearby Share to many devices.
To use Nearby Share, you need to find a device that is nearby, has the screen unlocked, and has Bluetooth and location services turned on. A notification will appear on the receiving device asking to become visible to the sender. The sender then selects the receiving device and off it goes.
As a security precaution, the receiver must choose to become visible and accept the transfer every time. This means you will never receive something without your consent.
Nearby Share also has a number of privacy options. You can choose to receive content from “All Contacts,” or select the specific people you want to be available to. It’s also possible to make yourself “Hidden,” so you’re only visible when Nearby Share is open.
Google made Nearby Share available to all Android 6.0+ devices, starting with Pixel and Samsung devices in August of 2020. The feature is set to work with Chromebooks as well, and there are signs of it coming to more platforms through the Google Chrome browser.
As mentioned, Nearby Share works through Google Play Services, so while the vast majority of Android devices will get it, there are some that will not.
Does Nearby Share Work Like AirDrop?
Android Nearby Share is being compared to Apple’s AirDrop feature by many. An AirDrop-competitor has been an often-requested feature among Android users. Is it fair to say Nearby Share is “AirDrop for Android?” While the two services may work slightly differently, they serve the same purpose.
AirDrop works between iPhones, iPads, and Mac computers. It uses Bluetooth to create a peer-to-peer Wi-Fi network between devices, no internet connection required. Files sent with AirDrop are encrypted. Nearby Share will eventually have similar cross-platform support between phones and computers (possibly even Macs). It can also work without an internet connection, though encryption is unknown at the time of writing.
There are some small technical differences between Google and Apple’s approaches, but they offer the same functionality. AirDrop has become a ubiquitous sharing platform among Apple users, whether that will happen with Nearby Share is yet to be seen.
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